Community recently downvoted and closed this question as off topic:

How do you say "He was looking for you" in German?

The given canned close reason "requests for proofreading, spell checking or translations of individual texts are off topic" does not fit here, because there neither is such an individual text nor is there anything in that question that could be "narrowed further down". I believe it was more of a phrase request that we previously had decided to be on topic.

In a highly upvoted comment it said in addition:

Did you try to use an online translator? What did it say? Do you have further problems with this translation attempt?

It is not the first time that we could read such a request for using an online translation service but in this case it appears as if it was the only thing what is missing.

Was this really the only reason for closing this question as off topic? What would make the result of such a machine translation so valuable here?

If not, what else do you think is missing to this question to make it on topic? What should have been said to help making this question or similar future questions better?

  • Hi Takkat, why did you accept the answer from @Wrzlprmft already? IMHO it is too early and can not be seen as community consensus.
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 9:07
  • 1
    @Thomas well, +6 is about the most we can get here. If a better answer will be added people can always still vote on that or we will accept the other answer then
    – Takkat
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 10:55

2 Answers 2


Why should somebody consult an online translation service before asking here?

I think that consulting an automatic translation services should never be mandatory and given their inevitable shortcomings, I would not recommend them either in most cases. Consulting such a service can be one way of prior research in some cases, but that’s about it.

Was this really the only reason for closing this question as off topic?

Let’s walk through this scheme:

  1. What does the question ask for? – translation
  2. Which direction? – to German
  3. Is the meaning of the foreign words clear? – yes
  4. Is the question about a single world, idiom or fixed phrase? – I can see why this might be debatable, but I would say yes, it is. In particular, some of the answers (e.g., “Y wollte etwas von Dir.”) would not come up when translating piece by piece.
  5. Does the asker explain why a dictionary did not help? – no
  6. Do you expect that a simple look-up in any dictionary suffices to answer the question? – Again, I can understand why this is debatable: I can imagine that a dictionary contains this phrase. However, I consulted a few dictionaries and found nothing, so: no
  7. Is the question clear? – yes. More details would help us to provide a more helpful answer to the asker, but it is clear what is a good answer to this question.
  • 1
    Nice scheme but I am missing your conclusion. However this forced me to follow your link. So I understand it. ;-)
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 9:02

A principle in most SE-sites is "Show your own effort!" I think this principle rules for German SE, too. And in this sense, it is not too much to ask to use an online translator1, to look if it answers the question and (only) if it does not then to ask, especially what is furthermore unclear.

I think, most people here are glad to help but no one wants to be exploited. I think the question mentioned above can be answered with the help of an online tranlator but I also understand that nevertheless it will remain some finer points, e. g. using in formal or colloquial way and so on.

So for me, in deed this question only lacks the "own effort" and that's why I wrote the comment mentioned above.

1: Like Google tranlslator, DeepL and so on.

  • Just so we are on the same page: Can you specify what you mean when you say online translator?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 7:17
  • 1
    The question is: does lack of own effort make a question off topic? You approach to ask for a further clarification what questions remain after consulting an online translation service is perfectly fine but it is new to me that lack of effort should make a question off topic. If any reason unclear may be disputable but people voted to close this question as off topic. This is what I do not understand.
    – Takkat
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 7:17
  • 1
    Accordint to this meta question: yes, it would be off topic. The help center also mention it as second bullet.
    – IQV
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 7:35
  • But: I don't think, we should close such questions immediately. That's why I aks for improvement (clarification) to give the OP the chance to fill in his search results and the remaining problems.
    – IQV
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 7:40
  • @IQV: yeah I can see this clearly and I know it was not you who closed the question. But: on-topicness and high quality sometimes go together but by no means not always. An on topic question does not necessarily be a good one and vice versa. That is what voting on questions and editing is all about.
    – Takkat
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 7:56
  • For phrase-requests we had this meta discussion: german.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1093/…
    – Takkat
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 8:04
  • And for translation requests, prior research and off-topic this meta discussion.
    – IQV
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 8:07
  • @IQV: but what if this was not such a translation request of an inidvidual text but rather a phrase request? And, I really don't want to see a flood of questions with a line *Google translates this as follows ... *.
    – Takkat
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 10:41
  • 2
    Then for me, it would be not off-topic but an allowed question. But it needs both elements: a translation attempt with a dictonary (or at least an online translator - no matter how bad they are) and an explanation, what is unclear.
    – IQV
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 11:02
  • 2
    @IQV: that is exactly what I mean - the question lacks an explanation about what is unclear but it is not off topic (we have many similar questions here, often with little research effort too). So your comment is perfectly fine but the closure without any other explanation is not.
    – Takkat
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 12:03
  • 4
    @IQV: "I don't think, we should close such questions immediately. That's why I aks for improvement (clarification)" - that is exactly what putting a question "on hold" means on SE. It is not "closed" as in "rejected, never to be touched again". It is put "on hold", i.e. certain actions such as posting answers are disabled until the OP has come back to improve their question. In other words, if you think a question needs to be improved to become answerable and/or useful for the scope of an SE site, putting it on hold immediately is the way to go. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 12:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .